Making the Most out of Makerspaces: UMass Amherst Libraries Awarded National Leadership Project Grant
The UMass Amherst Libraries, along with the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) and the University of Nevada-Reno, were recently awarded a $241,845 National Leadership Project Grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to fund the development of an immersion program to train faculty and instructors on how to integrate the use of makerspaces, dedicated spaces with technological resources and equipment for project-based collaboration, into their courses.
The impetus for designing such a program comes from the results of a previous IMLS grant-funded pilot study entitled “Maker Literacies and the Undergraduate Curriculum,” which explored the impacts of academic library makerspaces on undergraduate student learning. The UMass Amherst Libraries were chosen by UTA and the University of Nevada-Reno as one of four additional university partners to participate in that study because of the Libraries’ Digital Media Lab (DML), a cross-disciplinary makerspace in the W. E. B. Du Bois Library open to all UMass Amherst students, faculty, and staff, regardless of major or department.
The results of the pilot study demonstrated that academic makerspace instructors need training and support in order to collaborate successfully with faculty on designing makerspace lesson plans and assessing maker literacies. Developing the immersion program and making it openly accessible online would fill this need at both a community and national level with the potential to be built on and scaled as new makerspace practices emerge.
“This grant gives us resources to take what we learned about maker literacies and develop a curriculum for educators,” says Sarah Hutton, head of Student Success and Engagement for the Libraries. “We’re building a community of maker-educators across a wide spectrum that can continue to learn from and engage with each other.”